Friday, January 29, 2016

Somewhere on the Spectrum. Written by Leigh Ann Berger

Somewhere on the Spectrum

I walked into his office and sat down. As I looked around the waiting room, I saw other people that probably were just like me. Their minds were wired differently and they were there to make sense of it all. They wanted to know who they were and maybe they wanted to be fixed.

I, on the other hand, didn’t want to be fixed. Yet I did come to find out who I was. For 35 long years, I had struggled to come to terms with why my brain couldn’t function right. I knew I wasn’t like other people. Social situations killed me. I preferred to be a loner so I didn’t have to associate and talk to other people. When I was around other people, my mouth ran because I didn’t know the appropriate time to keep it quiet. And of course, people looked at me as strange because of it.

Worry. That was my middle name. I was petrified of the future and what would happen next. I couldn’t live grounded in the present. I was either living rehashing and regretting my previous mistakes in life or I was scared as to what may lie ahead in my future. I couldn’t just be present. There was no way I could sit back and enjoy life for the beauty that it was. I was rooted in more angst, more emotions and more frustrations than I could ever explain.

And talking to people, well that was even harder. Because of my nerves my mind ran a mile a minute and many times before I could even get my words together they came spilling out of mouth. I could count the looks people would give me probably thinking what the hell is her problem. 

But yet, I was an extremely, bright, out of the box thinker. I always wanted to go far, to push myself beyond my comfort zone and any limits out there. Life, to me, was a journey that taught me lessons each day. And I wanted full force to go into each day and, like a sponge, learn everything I could. 

“Dr. Dumont will see you now.” 

This was it.

I walked in his office and stared at him. “Hello, Leigh Ann. Nice to meet you”, Dr. Dumont said.

I responded with words I couldn’t quite make out and then I sat down. He sensed my nerves.  “I know this is hard, but let’s talk. Let me get to know you. Why are you here”, he asked.

“I think I have Asperger's.”

And at that moment, every emotion, every tear, every bottled up feeling I had for years came out. I had to tell him I was sorry and that this was harder than I thought. He understood. 

As I gained composure I explained to him that a year prior I had received the same diagnosis on my son. He was quite like me: hated change, had a hard time in social situations, got frustrated and broke down easily, preferred to be alone and not in crowds. The list honestly was endless. And through learning about Asperger's through his diagnosis, I began to wonder if that too was the magical explanation for the last 35 years of my life.

I spoke and the words and emotions just poured. I described my childhood as always feeling like the outsider. How kids called me odd and made names for me. I always felt like my brain was so wacky and I could never get it to think in one piece. 

After rambling on and on, I finally stopped. And I looked at him and asked, “So, do you think I have Asperger's?”

He nodded, “But it doesn’t change who you are, Leigh Ann. I gather you came here just to find out but other than that, it should really make no meaning on your life.”

He was right. Asperger's was a part of who I am but it didn’t define me. It just helped explain why my brain functioned differently. 

 That night, I sat in my room in bed and just closed my eyes. I smiled and felt the tears run down my cheek. After 35 years, I have finally gotten a definition of just who I am. I didn’t have to feel like I was strange. I wasn’t. I was just me.

I was a person who was wired a little differently. But yet, I was still like everyone else I had ever met. I was a living, breathing, individual that was capable of so much. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t do in life if I wantedAsperger's didn’t define me. Nope, it was just a mere part of the wonderful person I call myself.

It helped me to not only learn who I was but it helped me to relate even better to my son. We had the same brain so I understood him. And I defended him fiercely as all Momma Bears do when someone would call him strange or weird.

Last summer, after many years of my son and I being verbally abused by my husband at the time, I took a stand and got him out of the house. He was an angry person to begin with but he couldn’t understand that our minds were just not the same as his. So instead of learning us as I begged him to do so many times, he decided to torment us instead for what he saw as shortfalls. I wasn’t going to let either my son or I be treated like we were anything less because our minds were different. 

At the moment I did the impossible and kicked him out, I found the greatest strength in me I had ever known. My diagnosis taught me to never be scared, to love who you are for all you are. And when I began to love and accept myself for who I am, I began to wake to the reality of how I truly wanted to live my life. 

Even though I went into the breakup scared and wondering how I would ever do it alone, I found a resilience and a zest to begin again. Since then I have come to know myself better than ever and I have found parts of me I never knew existed. I was a survivor. I was a person with a different way of looking at life but that this view would always give me new and better ways to forge a new path for myself. 

Most importantly, I found myself. Even though I didn’t let Asperger's define me, it gave me a sense of purpose of why I was here on this Earth. It taught me I didn’t need to fear the unknown that I was living my life exactly as I was meant to be. There was no regretting the past and there was no reason to be scared of the future. I was truly exactly where I needed to be in life. 

Asperger's will never define who I am. I will always just be me. And that needs no explanation.

Leigh Ann and her family

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